Understand your influence.
Even your youngest students are observing your reaction to their home language – and it makes a difference in whether or not they will retain this important asset.
Even as early as the preschool level, young children quickly recognize the status differential between their home languages and English. When the interactions they experience with teachers reinforce these status differentials, students disengage their identities from their home languages and the process of language loss is accelerated (Olsen et al., 2001)
Actively encourage parents to retain home language early on.
In the precious early stages of their child’s education, parents are looking to you for guidance on what is in their child’s best interest. It is crucial to be explicit with families about the importance of maintaining home language. You are in a key role to help them understand the many benefits of bilingualism, and to clarify that commonly-held misconception that maintaining home language may impeded English language acquisition.
Create an environment that celebrates languages.
Find ways your classroom can embrace home languages, cultures and family experiences of the children you teach. Some ideas:
– Stock your classroom library with books that represent home languages and stories.
– Create visual displays to celebrate diversity
Understand and share the TRUTH about the power of bilingualism!
You may find this report, PreK-3rd: Challenging Common Myths About Dual Language Learners An Update to the Seminal 2008 Report by Linda M. Espinosa, Ph.D. highly informative, as it addresses commonly-held misconceptions about dual language learners, and reveals the truth and what it means for parents and educators.
Support parents with resources on raising bilingual kids today
Our friends at MomsRising.org share a wealth of information for parents and educators to support bilingual learners as well. https://www.momsrising.org/blog/parents-share-why-bilingual-is-better-bilingualrisers
You may find these Kaleidoscope Play & Learn Guides helpful as well, as you work with caretakers and inform them about the Speak Your Language campaign.
Remind your students to prepare for what’s ahead!
When your students reach high school, they will be eligible for World Language Credits or a Seal of Biliteracy if they have maintained their home language. Throughout the elementary and middle school years, students are shaping their identities and determining whether or not they are devoted to developing (or maintaining) their home language. You can play a key role in encouraging them to develop their language skills.
By doing so, you will help them start early preparation for these academic rewards.
Celebrate language and bilingualism.
Make space in your classroom for students’ bilingualism and ways of processing the world. The celebration of bilingualism shouldn’t be limited to ELL students; encourage all students, monolingual or multilingual, to recognize the power of bilingualism.
Provide bilingual students with space and opportunity to express their heritage and identity and build upon it. Consider classroom activities that allow students to share their bilingualism or life experiences with other students. By supporting their bilingual identities, you will be supporting your students’ socioemotional development.
Remind students about the importance of maintaining home language.
Correct negatives myths about home language retention for students!
During the elementary and middle school years, parents may be beginning to focus on academic success. For this reason, it is important to remind them that bilingualism is a distinct advantage for their student, in the classroom and beyond. Try to actively encourage them to maintain home language. Many parents withhold from speaking home language due to misinformation or misconceptions about the effect of home language on bilingual learners.
Again, you may find this report eye-opening and full of useful information you can share with parents: https://www.fcd-us.org/assets/2016/04/Challenging-Common-Myths-Update.pdf
Reminder: many cultures afford educators great deference. You may find that if parents are keeping a distance, it is out of respect, not a lack of interest in their child’s education. In fact, many cultures put extensive emphasis on education and have parents who would be thrilled to be involved. Connect with parents and help them understand that maintaining their language and their culture is important to you, too!
Some educators find it useful to use a chart to send home academic progress reports that can be easily understood by parents who are not fluent in English.
Help Your Bilingual Students Excel and Get the Credit They Deserve:
World Language Credits & The Seal of Biliteracy
Bilingualism has a number of important benefits for students, ranging from brain benefits to self-confidence, connection to family and community, and increased opportunity in a global world. During high school, your students may also benefit from two important academic programs exist that reward home language fluency:
World Language Credits – up to 4 credits toward high school graduation may be awarded to students who test as proficient in a language other than English. Testing is available whether or not the language is taught at the school, and students may receive fewer than 4 credits for some written and spoken fluency.
Watch the World Language Credit video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgCMhiM1N-o
The Seal of Biliteracy is earned by students who have qualified for 4 World Language Competency-Based credits. The Seal is placed on the graduation diploma itself, and is noted on their transcript.
*Between 2012 and 2014 in South King County, one in five (21%) students who participated in the World Language Credit program needed their competency-based world language credits to graduate high school; and
* One in ten (10%) students who participated in the program needed the competency-based credits to be eligible to attend a four-year college.
Seal of Biliteracy Website
OSPI – Seal of Biliteracy information
Seal of Biliteracy training video:
OSPI – World Language Proficiency information